No “Plan B”: U.S. Strategic Access in the Middle East and the Question of Bahrain

Arguably, the most important U.S. strategic base in the heart of the Middle East lies in the small island country of Bahrain. Over the past two years, Bahrain has seen dramatic increases in Shia Muslim sectarian protests and political unrest resulting from a lack of democratic reforms with the ruling Al-Khalifa family. To date, the Bahraini government has controlled the protests, sometimes harshly.

In view of the ongoing political unrest, the possibility of losing strategic basing rights in Bahrain is something that should be carefully considered. Unfortunately, military leaders state there is no “Plan B” if strategic basing in Bahrain is jeopardized.

While losing Bahrain is not a foregone conclusion, it remains a distinct possibility. The absence of a U.S. presence could potentially create a power vacuum, destabilize the region, and eliminate the moderating effect of U.S. influence in any Bahraini crisis. Therefore, the United States must investigate viable alternatives as a hedge strategy.